Pan Africa News 13(2)19-21

Hand Clapping by a Chimpanzee in the Nimba Mountains, Guinea, West Africa

Kathelijne Koops, Tetsuro Matsuzawa


We report the first observation of hand clapping by a wild chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) in the Nimba Mountains in Guinea, West Africa. Hand clapping has previously been reported only for captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). There, chimpanzees have been seen to clap hands in the context of potential food availability to attract the attention of humans and as a gesture during play. Also, bonobos (Pan paniscus) in the San Diego Zoo hand- and foot-clapped during grooming, presenting a unique local tradition that has been transmitted to new individuals introduced into the group. For wild great apes, hand clapping has been seen only in one female mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) in the Virunga Mountains, Rwanda, and in several female and young western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in southwestern Central African Republic. Most cases in which hand clapping was seen in western lowland gorillas were when the gorillas were nervous about the presence of the human observers.

Our chimpanzee study site is in a part of the Nimba Mountains near the village of Seringbara (7°37'50.0"N, 8°27'44.7"W) in southeastern Guinea. The Seringbara study area covers about 25 km² and is 6 km southeast of Bossou, where a community of 12–23 chimpanzees has been studied since 1976. Occasional surveys in the Nimba area have been ongoing since 1992. However, no constant research presence in the Nimba Mountains around Seringbara existed before the present study (begun in August 2003) and the chimpanzees remain largely unhabituated.

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Koops K, Matsuzawa T (2006) Hand Clapping by a Chimpanzee in the Nimba Mountains, Guinea, West Africa Pan Africa News 13(2)19-21